Saturday, November 12, 2011

Simultaneous ice melt in Antarctic and Arctic

The end of the last ice age and the processes that led to the melting of the northern and southern ice sheets supply basic information on changes in our climate.

Although the maximum size of the ice sheet in the northern hemisphere during the last ice age is relatively well known, there is little reliable data on the dimensions of the Antarctic ice sheet.

A publication appearing in the journal "Science" on 1 December now furnishes indications that the two hemispheres attained their maximum ice sheet size at nearly the same time and started melting 19,000 years ago.

"The decline in the Antarctic ice sheets thus commenced almost 5,000 years earlier than assumed to date, though our investigations show great regional differences and demonstrate how important deepwater archives are," says the lead author of the study, Dr. Michael Weber from the Geological Institute of the University of Cologne.

"Our results suggest that Antarctica was not as climatically isolated as previously assumed," adds Dr. Gerhard Kuhn from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. "Now we have to presume that the reaction of the large ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic to climate change is more closely linked in time than thought. At least that's the way it was during the last ice age." more